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Dates & programme of the Carnival in Basel 2021

But what makes the Carnival in Basel particularly special is its blend of anarchical chaos and well organized large-scale event. The following is an overview of what visitors should experience.


22.02.2021, 4 am

On Monday after Ash Wednesday, the town rises at four o’clock sharp to the Morgestraich, the impressive start to the Basel Fasnacht. Upon the fourth chime of St Martin’s church, all the lights go off in the inner city. At the drum majors’ command of “Morgestraich: vorwärts, marsch!”, the alleys and the streets spring to life with the sound of hundreds of piccolos and drums. All the cliques* open with the Morgestraich, a very traditional and archaic marching tune, which is only played on this occasion. The only light in the blacked-out streets comes from the myriad of lanterns that accompany the pipers and drummers, alighting the faces of thousands of spectators at the side of the streets, many of them from abroad: a truly magical moment!

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22. - 24.02.2021

After the parade on Monday afternoon, the cliques display their elaborately designed lanterns on the Münsterplatz. Featuring the visualized sujets, the lanterns reveal their true magic after dark when they are lit for the first time after Morgestraich. They come in many forms and styles. Some bear the unmistakable signature of regular artists, others are painted by laymen and -women. Today, new techniques and innovative materials are being employed increasingly. What once began with caricatures of well-known Basel politicians and personalities has over the last decades developed into a true art historical digest.


Kids' Carnival


On Tuesday afternoon, the city centre is again caught up in the hustle and bustle of Fasnacht, but now it’s the children’s turn. In small groups, kids accompanied by parents, grandparents, and other grown-ups practise the traditions of Fasnacht. Dressed in imaginative costumes and equipped with drums, musical instruments, and small handcarts they roam the streets, distribute Dääfeli (sweets) and Zeedel, witty leaflets they’ve written themselves, and shower the spectators with Räppli. In turn, adults, too, make use of the day to celebrate carnival unconstrained by the strict schedule of the cortège, in loose formations and wearing their favourite personal mask and costume.



23.02.2021, 7.30 - 11 pm

On Tuesday evening, the town is in the hands of the Guggenmusik bands. A part of the roughly 60 brass bands equipped with ear-shattering trumpets, trombones, tubas, drums, kettledrums, and cymbals convene at Exhibition Square around 6.30pm. From there they parade through Clarastrasse towards the city centre and the three large squares (Barfüsserplatz, Marktplatz, and Claraplatz) where they perform on specially erected stages. The popular and eagerly awaited Gugge* concerts are staged between 7.30 and 10.30pm but most of the bands also play before and after the main event in restaurants and on squares across town. On this evening, the piper and drummers give way to the Guggenmusik* bands and retreat to the small alleys away from the main streets and squares.


22.02.2021 | 24.02.2021, 1.30 pm

On Monday and Wednesday afternoon it is time for the large street parade, the so-called cortège, when roughly 11,000 maskers play out their sujet in fixed formations of varying size. Unlike the Morgestraich, the cortège is an event for all Fasnacht formations, that is, large and small cliques, huge floats, individual maskers (Ainzelmasgge), Guggenmusik bands, groups of masks, and elegant horse-drawn carriages (chaises). In some cases, a formation’s sujet is already recognizable from a distance – namely on the large lantern that precedes each traditional clique. The sujet is also represented and reflected in the head-masks (Larve), costumes, and props (Requisiten). Behind the lantern and the so-called Vortrab (vanguard) come the pipers, the drum major, and finally the drummers.

Some of the large floats and props (Requisiten) that feature in the cortège can be admired at the Kaserne where they are on display throughout the day on Tuesday.

Carnival participants


25.02.2021, up to 04.00 am

Before the “three best days of the year” come to an end with the “Endstreich” –the close of the carnival – Fasnacht activity is ratcheted up a notch on Wednesday evening. The active participants go all out between midnight and 4 a.m. and enjoy this additional Fasnacht highlight to the full. Then, just before 4 a.m. on Thursday morning, the cliques and Gugge groups proceed to one of their regular meeting places and play a final march or other piece of music to  mark the end of the carnival. They then take their leave and begin looking forward to the next Fasnacht.

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One of the most salient features of the Basel Fasnacht are the so-called Schnitzelbanks. The satirical rhyming songs are regarded as the epitome of carnival humour. The Schnitzelbank singers, who usually also write the songs, comment on political and social events that occurred over the last year in elegantly rhymed and witty verses, usually spiced up with a sound portion of satire and a pinch of humorous malice. Schnitzelbank singers perform in restaurants and theatres on Monday and Wednesday evening, on Tuesday evening also in clique cellars and private houses. Just as important as the songs are the illustrations that go with them, the so-called Helge; each song comes with its own picture which is held up to the audience. A good illustration provides hints to the song’s theme, but without disclosing the punchline.

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